You probably already know that if you’re pregnant, you should be including a variety of lower mercury fish in your diet, as fish contains many nutrients essential to a healthy pregnancy.
Since the details on each fish species are rarely discussed, here’s in in-depth guide to one of the most common fish species: pollock.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Pollock? Pollock is a common name for more than one variety of fish, but most are low in mercury and a good option during pregnancy. Fish like pollock should always be thoroughly cooked if you’re pregnant.
Here’s a run through of the differences between pollock species, and which are better choices in pregnancy.
The Different Species of Pollock
The type of pollock you’re more likely to come across depends on where you live, and what’s being fished locally.
Is Alaska Pollock Safe in Pregnancy?
In the USA, “pollock” usually refers to Alaska (or Alaskan) pollock. This is a fish that’s actually closer to cod than true pollock (source: Journal of Fish Biology). It’s also very similar to Norwegian Pollock.
Alaskan pollock is safe to eat in pregnancy, if it’s fully cooked. It’s found in many popular fish sandwiches, such as Arby’s Fish Sandwich, Birds Eye Fish Fingers and the McDonald’s Filet O Fish.
Alaska pollock is used frequently to make other fish products (usually battered or fried) and is often an ingredient in surimi, or imitation seafood (there’s an article all about imitation crab safety here).
Alaska Pollock is quite a lean fish, so it’s a good source of lean protein, but contains less omega 3 fatty acids than regular pollock. It’s a good source of Selenium and Vitamin D (source: Seafood Health Facts).
Other Pollock Fish (Atlantic Pollock)
In Europe, Pollock more frequently refers to Pollachius pollachius, the species found in the Northern Atlantic. It’s caught in Norway and around the British Isles.
This pollock has a stronger taste than Alaskan pollock, and is a decent source of B vitamins, Niacin, Magnesium and Potassium. Like Alaskan pollock, it’s a very good source of lean protein and Selenium (source: NutritionData).
Since the availability of either pollock largely depends on where you live, there’s no need to choose one species of pollock over another during pregnancy, since both are lean, low mercury fish choices.
Is Wild-Caught Pollock Safe if I’m Pregnant?
Pregnant women are often told to seek out wild, rather than farmed fish. Most Pollock caught worldwide is wild, and not farmed.
Pregnant women are sometimes encouraged to choose wild pollock, because wild fish tend to have less saturated fat and slightly more omega-3 fatty acid content than farmed fish.
However, they are also more prone to natural diseases, including parasitic infections (source: CSU College of Health).
Wild-caught Pollock (both Alaskan and Atlantic) is safe in pregnancy if it’s cooked throughout.
Cooking fish thoroughly kills bacteria and other pathogens, so pregnant women, if eating wild-caught pollock, should ensure the fish is fully cooked before eating it.
This means it should reach an internal temperature of 145F or 63C (source: FDA). Most fish are opaque and flake easily at this temperature, so cut into the meatiest part of the pollock and check that it’s done. The most accurate way to measure this is a good food thermometer.
Is Pollock High in Mercury?
Some more good news is that whether it’s wild or not, almost all species of Pollock are classed as a lower mercury fish, making pollock a good choice during pregnancy.
According to average measurements of commercial seafood measured by the FDA, Pollock came in at an average of 0.031 PPM (parts per million) of mercury (source: FDA). This is considered a low mercury level.
Additionally, the Environmental Defense Fund list the following species and types of Pollock as having “low” levels of mercury (source: EDF):
- Atlantic Pollock (Europe)
- Atlantic Pollock (USA)
- Alaska Pollock (USA)
- Pollock formed to make imitation crab meat
Therefore, no matter where the Pollock was caught, it’s known to have a low mercury level.
If you’re wondering “how much pollock can I eat during pregnancy?” then the guidelines state that pregnant women can eat up to 8 – 12oz of lower mercury fish like pollock per week, which is about 2-3 servings (source: APA).
Is Pollock Good in Pregnancy? What Are The Benefits?
Fish forms an essential part of most pregnancy diets, as it’s a lean, nutritious source of protein.
Pollock is a good choice, as it’s lower in mercury and is almost always wild-caught.
Both Atlantic and Alaska Pollock are a good source of phosphorous, selenium, and vitamin B12. The only issue is that pollock is very often battered, breaded, and fried. This decreases its health value (source: Sutter Health).
Eating fried pollock adds saturated fat, trans-fats, and calories unnecessarily. The best option would be to buy pollock fillets, either pre-prepared or from a fishmonger, but natural, and not in a heavy coating.
A Recommended Pollock Recipe for Pregnancy
Fish like pollock can take strong flavors so you can bake, broil or poach it, then add strong sauces, marinades or seasonings to pollock whilst maintaining its nutritional value.
My absolute favorite way of preparing it is in a Spanish-style Mediterranean sauce with smashed olive oil potatoes .
If that doesn’t whet your appetite, nothing will! It’s also a totally pregnancy-safe recipe, so I’m including it here.
Here’s a video from the Foodable Network in Seattle showing how to make it:
This is a great way to incorporate strong, tasty flavours with a decent amount of veggies, Mediterranean style. Enjoy!
If you want to increase your fish intake during pregnancy, you might also be interested in these pages – some have recipes, too: